OK, so I know many of you are depressed and feeling hopeless right now about the Avalanche. Let’s just take a step back for a moment, though, and take a look at the situation:
It’s a tie series, a best out-of-three series and the Avs have two of the three at home. No, the Avs haven’t looked competitive against Vegas for most of the last eight periods now, but also: as truly terrible as they were, they were five minutes away from winning Game 3. If the Avs can just find a way to get normal production from a couple guys like Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar, this series can swing back the other way in a hurry.
Frankly, I’ve always thought this core of Avs players does better when they’re the underdogs, when everyone is writing them off – which is what is happening now among most of the media punditry and oddsmakers, including those at sa gaming. The top players on this team – and the others in the next tier who have been around a while just have not exhibited a great killer instinct. But they usually respond well when everybody is counting them out.
So, Jared Bednar met the media on Zoom this morning, and sounded many of the things he’s said the last two days,, which can be summed up as: “We gotta make things harder on them, we gotta battle harder, we gotta be better with the puck in our own end”, etc. etc.
Bednar said he is “thinking about” playing Bo Byram in Game 5. Reading between the lines, I think the most likely candidate to come out is Conor Timmins. Why do I think Timmins and not Patrik Nemeth, who is the target of Avs’ fans’ ire right now?
Because Bednar thinks Nemeth is still a good asset on the penalty kill, which has been good for the most part. Bednar said, though, that he’s mindful of how long Byram has been out (March 25) and how little hockey he’s played in the last year and a half. Yeah, that is a worry. But one of the things Bednar said is lacking right now is puck transition out of the D-zone. Byram can be a one-man breakout when things are normal for him.
Then again, Bednar also said Vegas’ big, heavy forecheck is creating problems for the D, that they’ve been “under duress” and Byram is not a big, heavy guy. It’s a calculated risk, putting a Byram in, but I think it’s going to happen. It’s not like the lineup the past two games has given Bednar much to feel good about.
- The Avs did not practice today. I think that’s a good thing. Time to spend a day away from hockey and relax the mind a bit.
- I’m expecting the Nazem Kadri second appeal decision to come down any time now. No, I don’t have any indication of what the ruling will be. I think, based on Shyam Das’ history, though, that a reduction in Kadri’s eight-game suspension is likely.
- Well, maybe “possible” is a better word than likely.
- So, I was at a memorial service for former Avs GM Pierre Lacroix yesterday. It was held at the Inverness Hotel, and it was a Who’s Who of Avs history. Joe Sakic, Rob Blake, Adam Foote, Ray Bourque, Claude Lemieux, Stephane Yelle – those were just some of the former players there. Stan and Josh Kroenke were there, along with the Avs’ first principal owner, Charlie Lyons.
- Sakic was there until about 3 p.m., then he left for a nearby private airport and an awaiting jet to get to Vegas in time for the 5:30 local puck drop.
- It was a very touching service, full of song and private pictures and video of Pierre. His sons, Eric and Martin, spoke eloquently of their father, as did Eric’s son, Max.
- Patrick Roy and Celine Dion also gave remembrances of Pierre, via video.
- Claude Lemieux gave a touching tribute to the man he called “Uncle Pete.” He told a funny story of how Lacroix convinced him and his new wife to live just across the street from Pierre, after his trade from the Devils in 1995. Lemieux also was talked into riding with Pierre to the airport and back for most road trips, and he told funny stories of what that was like – including the time Lemieux said he was mad at Lacroix over something and was giving him the silent treatment the whole ride home and how Pierre nearly kicked him out of the car.
- Roy told a funny story of how, in 1993 after winning the Cup with Montreal, he was given a free trip to Disneyland for friends and family. Lacroix, his agent at the time, came along as well. Roy talked Lacroix into getting on the ride at Space Mountain, and Lacroix apparently thought it was such a terrifying experience that he didn’t have room for dessert that night.
- Those who knew Pierre well knew how much he loved a good dessert. He had a definite sweet tooth.
- I still remember how excited Pierre was in telling me where to eat in Montreal, on my first road trip there in 1995. He knew all the best restaurants in town, and the place he told me to go was “Gibby’s” in the old-town part of the city. He said the “chocolate souchard” cake was the thing to order for dessert – and it was.
- Max Lacroix, by the way, played prep-school hockey in Massachusetts this year. The billet family he stayed with? The Bourque family.
- Erik Johnson was there too, by the way, and I spoke with him briefly. I don’t think I’m telling tales out of school when I relay that Johnson said he is feeling much better and “getting closer” to a possible return.